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Governor, state health director answer your coronavirus questions

Gov. Ducey and Dr. Christ discussed shelter-in-place orders, medical equipment, tests, school closures and how the weather will affect the virus.

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey and the state's top health official, Dr. Cara Christ, were in the 12 News studio Friday to answer your questions about COVID-19 and talk about the state's effort to fight it. 

Below is an outline of their discussion on Friday. 

You can text "FACTS" to 602-444-1212 to get a link to all of our coronavirus coverage. You can also continue texting in your questions for the next time we talk to an expert.  

Read more of our coverage on the coronavirus pandemic here: 12news.com/coronavirus

You can watch the full discussion in the video below. You can also continue reading about the questions that were answered if you scroll further down. 

Why hasn't there been a shelter-in-place order?

While several other states and the Navajo Nation have ordered residents to shelter in place, Arizona has not. 

"Our situation in Arizona is different than in other states. The guidance that I've put forward is to protect public health and people in the state of Arizona," Ducey said. 

"I'm not guessing. everything I've done to date has been under guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and in alignment with Cara Christ, and that's how we're going to continue to do it."

Ducey also said that the current order has to do with the number of cases, the counties and the days since the first case. 

Bars, movies theaters and gyms are closed in affected counties statewide, and restaurants are only allowed to offer dine-out service. All Arizona schools are closed until April 10. 

The actual number of COVID-19 cases

Dr. Cara Christ said asymptomatic and mild cases are not getting tested, so the state count is "just the tip of the iceberg."

Limited number of tests

12 News has learned that not all swabs sent to the state lab are being tested for results. 

RELATED: Arizona health leaders confirm not all COVID-19 swabs are tested for results

Christ said the state lab is prioritizing high-risk cases because of the limited resources available. 

She urges anybody with a cough, fever and shortness of breath to stay home. If symptoms worsen and you have difficulty breathing, that's when you should go to the emergency room.  

What's the plan to address the shortage of personal protective equipment?

There is a nationwide shortage of gloves, gowns, masks, ventilators and hospital beds. 

Arizona has gotten a supply of medical equipment from the CDC's Strategic National Stockpile. What we have received so far is only 25% of Arizona's share of the stockpile. 

State officials have requested the rest of the supplies ahead of the expected peak of COVID-19 cases in April and May. 

RELATED: Coronavirus cases expected to peak in April, Arizona health director says

Elective surgeries have also been canceled to conserve medical equipment. 

Will school closures be extended?

Right now, Arizona schools are closed until April 10, but with the peak of illnesses expected later that month, many are wondering whether the closures will be extended. 

Ducey said state leaders will review that order in early April. 

"There won't be any disruption in pay. We're going to figure out a way to complete the school year, one way or another. But we want to do it in a safe way that protects our kids," Ducey said. 

Will the virus slow down when it gets hotter?

"Viruses don't like being outside, and they don't like heat or UV light," Christ said. 

In warmer temperatures, viruses tend to die off more quickly on frequently touched surfaces outside. 

When the weather heats up, more of us will likely be outside and more spread out, which will also help slow the spread of COVID-19, she added.

That doesn't mean summer will kill off the virus. Christ noted that H1N1 peaked through the summer, so it is important to continue good handwashing techniques and to stay home if you're sick. 

Does Arizona have enough ventilators?

Christ said the state has requested about 5,000 ventilators from the federal government as officials assess where they are with medical equipment. 

"I would rather be overprepared and not have to use these than underprepared, but that's what public health does, and we are going to be overprepared," she said. 

Ducey added that they requested that many ventilators to prepare for a worst-case scenario. 

How will we expand hospital space?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is looking for places to set up COVID-19 treatment facilities during the peak of the outbreak. 

They are looking at currently shuttered hospitals along with now-empty sports arenas, hotels and dorms. 

Will there be enough doctors and nurses?

Ducey said state officials are also trying to make sure there will be enough medical professionals to care for patients. 

Christ said they are working with medical boards to see if they can bring back retired physicians to do telemedicine. 

They are also working with anesthesiologists, out-patient surgeons, nurses and physicians working in private labs to shore up the number of medical personnel available. 

On hoarding supplies

Ducey said grocery stores are empty because of high anxiety related to the outbreak, which is why he ordered the National Guard to help them restock. 

He advises residents to only get a week's worth of supplies at a time when going to the store. Otherwise, stay home. 

Should we shut down the Grand Canyon?

"We need people to practice social distancing, physical distancing. There's no better place in the world to do that than in the Grand Canyon," Ducey said. 

He added that the decision to keep the Grand Canyon open might change with updated guidance from the CDC. 

How do we prevent infected people from coming into the state

We know that people from New York, the hotspot for COVID-19 in the U.S. right now, are traveling to other states. 

Ducey said as governor, there are things he can do to prevent infected people from coming into the state, and his team is currently researching what needs to be done. 

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